THREE UYAFC SIDES secured BUCS league safety in their final games of the season last Wednesday to bring the curtain down on a successful season for the club.
The 1s reached safety despite a 1-0 defeat to Leeds Trinity 1s, the 3s leapfrogged Sunderland 2s with a 2-1 home win to escape relegation, while the 4s remained above relegation on goal difference following a 3-4 away defeat to York St John’s 5s.
With the 2s already safe in Northern 5B following their 1-0 defeat of Leeds Trinity 2s earlier this month, it was the turn of the 1s, 3s, and 4s to win their respective relegation battles.
The first game of the final day saw the 3s take on Sunderland 2s on the 3G – a battle between Northern 5B’s bottom two sides – with only a win guaranteeing the 3s safety.
A strong first-half saw the 3s take a half-time lead, which could have been extended shortly after the restart if not for some good goalkeeping.
Sunderland, with anything but defeat here guaranteeing them safety, however, fought back with a 53rd-minute strike. It was a simple goal for the 3s to concede, with a low cross from the right being tapped in from close range.
At 2-1, the 3s had a great chance to kill the game with 20 minutes left on the clock, but the resulting shot fizzed wide after a counter-attack left Sunderland outnumbered at the back. This missed chance condemned the home side to a nervy last 20 minutes, in which the away side mounted a blockade on the 3s goal with one goal being enough to relegate the York side.
The 3s managed to hang on until the final whistle, however, to secure a vital three points in only their second win of the season which sees them leapfrog and relegate Sunderland, and finish two points behind the 2s in the safety zone.
The UYAFC 1s campaign ended in fascinating style, securing safety despite a brave 1-0 home defeat to table-topping Leeds Trinity 1s as fellow relegation-battlers Bishop Burton failed to field a team, condemning themselves to relegation.
The 1s showed intent from the first whistle, with a fast start seeing Nsoatabe, Rennie, and Gamble all going close. There couldn’t be a greater chasm in the aim of either side; UYAFC 1s were fighting to cement Northern 2B football next season, while Trinity 1s were looking to secure the league title.
Nevertheless, the chasm didn’t show on the pitch. UYAFC 1s found great success from counter-attacking football through the pace of Maney and Hamill. Indeed, it was those two that almost linked up for a goal in perhaps the best chance of the first period. Hamill had found some space down the right-hand side, but his cross was whiskers away from landing on the boot of a stretching Maney. Meanwhile, Trinity were restricted to very few chances.
Despite their dominance, York had nothing to show for it on the scoreline by half-time; and, after failing to turn up in the first-half, Trinity looked far more dangerous during the second period.
Gamble cannot be faulted for making positive attacking changes at half-time, bringing on Kitching and Leach; however, the risk didn’t pay off, as the compromise in physicality allowed Trinity to get at York more.
The ball was in the back of the York net in the 53rd-minute, for it only to be ruled out with the referee adjudging the ball to have gone out of play before the cross came in. It was a momentary let off for York.
Not long later, substitute Kitching found himself clearing off the line as Trinity continued to probe the York defence until the breakthrough eventually came in the 70th-minute from a corner. The away side then had the chance to cement their lead but four consecutive attempts on goal were unsuccessful due to some hearty York defending.
UYAFC 1s responded excellently following the introduction of Woodhouse and Spencer from the bench. The former had a great chance to be the hero but his header back across goal from the back-post couldn’t find the net.
There were more hands-on-head moments for the home side as they searched for a late equaliser. Maney slid the ball wide after being played through by Kitching, perhaps the best chance of the game, before Woodhouse curled an effort from the edge of the box marginally wide.
Ultimately, York couldn’t reproduce their late heroics against Bishop Burton as the final whistle blew to crown Leeds Trinity Northern 2B champions and leave the 1s with an uncomfortable wait for news of the Burton result.
It was news they were glad to eventually hear, however, as, somewhat unexpectedly, Burton failed to field a team for their game against Northumbria 2s, meaning Tom Gamble’s side had completed the great escape.
Elsewhere, the 4s were away to York St John’s 5s – two sides in a three-way battle to avoid the drop. The 4s were two places above the relegation zone at the start of the day; however, a 3-4 defeat to fellow strugglers St John’s and a comfortable 5-1 win for bottom-placed Teesside 3s meant the 4s flirted with relegation, only avoiding it on goal difference in the end.